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8 Documents on Bronze: A Phenomenon of the Roman West?

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Chapter Summary

The massive destruction of documents on bronze, in contrast to inscriptions on stone, does not just affect individual monuments with extremely varied content, but sometimes whole categories of inscriptions. The chances for inscriptions on bronze to survive were thus extremely poor; whenever they were found, they were usually melted down. The troves of old metal found throughout the empire further suggest that even in the Roman period, bronze was collected for the purpose of reuse. It is tempting to think that the valuable metal might have been used more sensibly in another way: when the military threat from outside increased the need for metal weapons of all kinds and the productivity of the mines was concurrently in decline, the demands of the armies for equipment could only be met by melting down and reusing all available metals, including public and private documents.

Keywords: bronze inscriptions; public documents; Roman West



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